|Ba'al Shem Tov on Pirkei Avot Chapter 4|
|Written by Bentzion of Medziboz|
1) BEN ZOMA SAYS: WHO IS WISE? – HE WHO LEARNS FROM EVERY MAN; AS SCRIPTURE SAYS FROM ALL MY TEACHERS HAVE I ACQUIRED WISDOM (Tehillim 119:99). WHO IS STRONG? - HE WHO SUBDUES HIS EVIL INCLINATION; AS SCRIPTURE SAYS HE THAT IS SLOW TO ANGER IS BETTER THAN THE STRONG MAN; AND HE RULES HIS SPIRIT IS BETTER THAT ONE WHO CONQUERS A CITY (Tehillim 16:32).
1) WHO IS WISE? – HE WHO LEARNS FROM EVERY MAN. This means even from a bad or evil man, whom we have seen committing some sinful deed. From the concept of unity (that all Jewry is one entity) we can learn that there is a trace of that sin in us as well. Hence we must improve ourselves and correct that trace of sin within us – and this will bring purification to the other person as well.
1) WHO IS WISE? – HE WHO LEARNS FROM EVERY MAN – and from his evil inclination too; and then the evil inclination itself becomes a good inclination. This is why the sage continues, “Who is strong? – he who subdues his evil inclination” – not killing it outright but only subduing it to bring it under his control, so as to carry out the service of the L-rd with it. (Tzof’nath Pa’ane-ah).
1) WHO IS WISE? – HE WHO LEARNS FROM EVERY MAN. For when he sees another person’s shortcoming, he senses about himself how to correct his own shortcoming. (Ben Porath Yosef, noah)
2) BEN AZZAI SAID: RUN TO DO A MINOR MITZVAH AS YOU WOULD TO A MAJOR IMPORTANT ONE, AND FLEE FROM A SINFUL ACT; FOR ONE MITZVAH DRAWS ANOTHER IN ITS WAKE, AND ONE SINFUL ACT DRAWS ANOTHER IN ITS WAKE; AND THE REWARD OF SIN IS SIN.
2) FOR THE REWARD OF A MITZVAH IS A MITZVAH. I heard from my master teacher (the Baal Shem Tov) that the meaning of this is that you can have no greater reward (for a mizvah) than this itself – the spiritual pleasure a person has from the mitzvah itself when he does it with happiness. For that is very great; and if he received no more reward than that, that alone would be enough. Consider then that in truth there is (an ultimate) limitless reward fir a mitzvah done with joy. (Toldoth Yaakov Yosef)
10) HE USED TO SAY: DO NOT GO JUDGING ALONE (BY YOURSELF). I heard from my revered grandfather (the Baal Shem Tov) that Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov were three judges. The sign indicating this is that if we take the second letter of the Hebrew name of each of the Patriarchs, we have beth, tzadi, a-yin, which spell betza, “bribe, graft” – intimating that judges need to be people who hate bribery and graft (Degel Machne Ephraim: va-yeira).
In this connection, I heard further that if someone is sitting in judgment over a person in a beth din, and he knows inwardly that the man is certainly innocent (for example his words have the unmistakable ring of truth), yet the law of the Torah rules him guilty, let him not find it hard to accept, thinking, “How can this be? Surely it is a Torah of truth, and its ways are ways of pleasantness!” For this too is a part of the truth (unerring accuracy) of the Torah and the pleasantness of its ways – because in a past lifetime (incarnation) this man must certainly have been obligated to pay the amount in question to the other party in this lawsuit, and now the Torah gives him the duty to pay it so that he should acquit himself of this obligation.
As for the fact that the other man is taking advantage of this opportunity to get the money by guile and deceit (since at this trial he has quite certainly lied, but the law is on his side), he is destined to answer for it in judgment in his own way.
11) BUT WHOEVER MAKES NAUGHT OF THE TORAH AMID WEALTH WILL MAKE NAUGHT OF IT IN THE END AMID POVERTY…It is told in the name of the Baal Shem Tov that he queried this text, finding its precise language puzzling: After all, when the rich man (who neglects the torah amid his wealth) will eventually again neglect the Torah (amid poverty) that neglect will constitute no punishment for him (it will cause him no suffering). For when he is wealthy, he has the means to observe it, and he nevertheless does not. Consequently, the essential penalty for him is that he is destined to become poor. Then our Sages should have phrased the text so: But whoever makes naught of the Torah amid wealth will be poor in the end. (Why stress or promise that he will neglect the Torah completely then too, if this will mean nothing to him?)
The Baal Shem Tov then explained that the truth is certainly so – that the essential punishment of him is that he will eventually be poor. But the Sages came to convey also that he is requited (paid back) measure for measure: Because he unburdened himself of the yoke of Torah although he had the means to observe it, since he was rich then, he will therefore not be given the chance afterwards, when he is poor, to observe the Torah then – so that he will remain poor all his life. For you see, if he is given the chance to observe the Torah later on, when he is impoverished, he will automatically become rich again afterward – because once he observes the Torah in poverty, he will ultimately observe it, in turn, amid wealth. (T’shu’oth Hen; Sifthey Tzaddikim, toldoth; Notzer Hessed , iv, 9)
Join a class on the Perekim from the Kesser Shem Tov: Shabbos morning 9am in the Shteibel Minyan Beis Medresh
Publicize the Teachings of the Baal Shem Tov To Help Bring Moshiach Right NOW!
Publicize the Teachings of the Baal Shem Tov to Bring Moshiach NOW!
The Baal Shem Tov Institute, Inc